The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm, by Pepe Escobar

source: The Saker

Major turbulence seems to be the name of the game in 2016. Yet the current turbulence may be interpreted as the calm before the next, devastating geopolitical/financial storm. Let’s review the current state of play via the dilemmas afflicting the House of Saud, the EU and BRICS members Russia, Brazil and China.

Oil and the House of Saud

Not many people are familiar with the Baltic Dry Index. Yet the Index is key to track commodity demand. Two months ago, it was trading to all-time lows. Since then, it has increased over 130%. Precious metals prices have all moved higher in virtually all currencies. Why is this important? Because it tells us that faith in fiat currencies – the US dollar especially — is sharply declining.

The Baltic Index rise portends a rise in oil demand in Asia – especially China. Falling supply and rising demand for oil will likely drive up the price of the barrel of oil in the second half of 2016.

That does not mean that the House of Saud will win back the trust of both the US and Russia. Deep sources keep confirming that as far as Washington and Moscow are concerned, the House of Saud is expendable. Both are really energy independent (should the US want to be). Powerful Washington factions blatantly accuse Riyadh of “terror” – well, it’s way more complicated – while Moscow regards the House of Saud as following US orders to destroy Russia in an oil price war.

Ailing – on the way to dementia — King Salman and young Warrior Prince Mohammed would be finished if those famous 28 pages about 9/11 were released and the Saudi connection is incontrovertible. What next? Regime change. A CIA coup. A “trusted” Saudi military CIA asset elevated to power.

What’s left for the House of Saud is to play for time. High up in Riyadh the feeling is that relations with Washington won’t improve while Obama is president; the next president — whether Hillary or The Donald – will be a much better deal. So Plan A for now is to keep posing as essential to Washington in the “war on terra”; that means King Salman falling back on Mohammed bin Nayef, the Crown Prince, way more adept at it than the Warrior Prince, the conductor of the disastrous war on Yemen.

In parallel, Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan keeps advancing his play to take over oil in Iraqi Kurdistan, eventually diverting the whole supply to make Turkey energy independent – and thus a regional superpower.

Moreover, in Pipelineistan terms, Erdogan absolutely also needs the Qatar gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia and Syria to gain energy independence from Russia. That also happens to be a major US goal. And that also portends perennial trouble for the Syria peace process.

Erdogan already has the German superpower at his feet in the shape of a groveling, begging Chancellor Merkel. Were Turkey on its way to become an energy power, Merkel would prostrate herself on that Ankara palace golden ground non-stop. The CIA intimates as much, when it analyzes how Turkey will keep “expanding its influence” in Iraq through the militias they support, at the expense of Iraq’s security and political unity.

Andrew Bacevich’s America’s War for the Greater Middle East examines how Washington ruled that “military preponderance” across the Middle East should be the strategic objective in a war against the USSR — that was when Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski reigned as geopolitical supremo. This was always supposed to be an endless war – now encompassing the “Greater Middle East” the neocons are so fond of.

Continue reading The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm, by Pepe Escobar

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Conversation: Radical Democracy & Climate Change Activists; Paul Street & Kevin Hester

This is as usual one good conversation for that weekend morning boost of conciousness we so like at Oceania Saker!

Click below to have a listen.

CPRadio

This week Eric welcomes author and columnist Paul Street, and radical envrionmentalist and political activist Kevin Hester to CounterPunch Radio. First, Eric chats with America’s leading ultra-sectarian ideological criminal Paul Street about why he’s having second thoughts about Bernie Sanders, and why the ruling elites might be as well. Eric and Paul discuss the Sanders campaign, what it means for grassroots activism, and whether or not it’s a dead end for those seeking radical change. They also touch on The Donald, the trumpen proletariat, and the danger of a fascist state in a post-President Trump scenario.

In the second part of the show Eric connects with Kevin Hester out on his isolated island in New Zealand to discuss the looming climate catastrophe and the unravelling of the biosphere. Eric and Kevin discuss the bleak, dystopian future of abrupt climate change, the latest report from James Hansen, and why everyone should be conscious of what is to come. Also, they examine the connection between climate change, the environment, and imperialism. Not exactly the rosiest picture, but an important reality.

Musical Interludes:

I See Hawks in LA – Raised by Hippies
Gospel Beach – California Steamer
Freedom: Sove Peyi Mwen
Beachwood Sparks – Talk About Lonesome

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Conversation: Corbett Report: Patrick Henningsen on NGOs and Human Rights Industrial Complex

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian Rebels, by Eric Zuesse

ource: Strategic Culture

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 19:  Author Seymour Hersh talks to a reader after a book discussion September 19, 2004 in Washington, DC. Hersh talked about his new book "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON – SEPTEMBER 19: Author Seymour Hersh talks to a reader after a book discussion September 19, 2004 in Washington, DC. Hersh talked about his new book “Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in two previous articles in the London Review of Books («Whose Sarin?» and «The Red Line and the Rat Line») has reported that the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria; and Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles. Hersh also said that a secret agreement in 2012 was reached between the Obama Administration and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to set up a sarin gas attack and blame it on Assad so that the US could invade and overthrow Assad. «By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria». Hersh didn’t say whether these «arms» included the precursor chemicals for making sarin which were stockpiled in Libya, but there have been multiple independent reports that Libya’s Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and also that the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a «rat line» for Gaddafi’s captured weapons into Syria through Turkey. So, Hersh isn’t the only reporter who has been covering this. Indeed, the investigative journalist Christoph Lehmann headlined on 7 October 2013, «Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria» and reported, on the basis of very different sources than Hersh used, that «Evidence leads directly to the White House, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, CIA Director John Brennan, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar, and Saudi Arabia´s Interior Ministry». And, as if that weren’t enough, even the definitive analysis of the evidence that was performed by two leading US analysts, the Lloyd-Postal report, concluded that, «The US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT». Obama has clearly been lying.

Continue reading Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian Rebels, by Eric Zuesse

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Popular representation and democracy in Syria, by Kristian Girling

source: Oriental Review

The Syrian parliamentary election of 13 April 2016 is demonstrative of the apparent and continuing plurality of Syrian society as manifested within the People’s Council – a parliamentary body which has often been regarded as merely a façade of legitimation for the ruling Baath Party government of President Bashar al-Assad. Plurality within the parliament is of significance insofar as it is indicative of the involvement of a range of religious communities in Syrian political life and runs directly contrary to the prevailing narrative of Syria as a dictatorship dominated by the Alawite religious community, of which the Assad family are members, and to the exclusion of the involvement of other religious communities in political activity.

Elections to the 250 member Syrian People’s Council take place every four years with the country divided into fifteen multiple seat constituencies. Since 2012 and amendments to the country’s constitution Syrian political life has been, in theory, open to participation to a wider array of political parties than the Baath and other permitted parties such as the Syrian Social Nationalist or Syrian Communist parties. Previously the Syrian Baath Party had looked likely to retain power in parliament indefinitely and indeed to dominate either directly by its own MPs or indirectly via allied parties and MPs. However, with the changes there is limitation on presidential office to seven years for any one candidate, no president can rule for more than two seven year terms, the president can now be someone who is not a member of the ruling National Progressive Front coalition, and the constitution no longer has a stipulation that the Baath Party is to be the normative and leading influence in Syrian socio-political life. Such changes may seem relatively minor and indeed the Baath Party will likely remain the de facto power in Syria for some time to come but they are indicative of President Assad’s openness to pursuing gradual reform on a model which is perceived as suitable for Syrian circumstances.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (C) casts his vote next to his wife Asma (centre left) inside a polling station during parliamentary elections in Damascus, Syria, on April 13, 2016.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (C) casts his vote next to his wife Asma (centre left) inside a polling station during parliamentary elections in Damascus, Syria, on April 13, 2016.

A key aspect of encouraging and maintaining societal stability in Syria since independence from French rule in 1946 has been to ensure that authoritative political leadership is combined with some type of broad representation of the plural religious and ethnic communities resident to Syria and ensure that they have a stake in determining Syria’s development. An important issue has been to ensure that those outside of the Alawite community have opportunities to take on representative roles and to know their contributions to Syrian society are valued. Criticism has focused on the Alawite strength and/or prevalence to many spheres of Syrian life but especially economically and in the security services to the detriment of others. The People’s Council appears to an extent to undermine these critiques as exemplified by the majority of seats being held by Syrians of the majority Sunni Muslim community.

Alawites and plural representation in the People’s Council

 

The Alawite community broadly identifies itself as part of Shia Islam having emerged in the late ninth/early tenth centuries in western Syria possibly around the figure of the eleventh Shia Imam, Hasan al-Askari. To the external observer it might seem that the Alawites are more a syncretistic movement containing aspects of Christianity and Twelver Shia Islam given, amongst other activities, they celebrate a type of Divine Liturgy including the consecration of wine alongside strong reverence for Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Islamic prophet, Mohammed. This combination of — or plurality of — beliefs in part explains why the Assad family has consistently supported the notion of a plural Syria and the general advancement of a paradigm of laïcité for the Syrian state and in which, in theory, no-one religion should predominate to the detriment of another.

The Alawites currently form around ten–fifteen percent of the Syrian population (c.2,000,000 people) and are concentrated in the western coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus. During the French Mandate in Syria (1923–1946) the Alawites were often strong supporters of French administration as their rule was perceived as a means to secure the Alawite community in a society which was not necessarily comfortable with their presence. Although Alawites consider themselves to be part of the Islamic milieu some Muslims, especially within the Sunni community, do not and find such assertions religiously and politically challenging.

The Alawite influence in the Syrian ruling élite within post-independence Syrian political affairs arose in the early 1970s when Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father) came to power as President. In general terms Hafez organised the state such that Sunnis held élite political offices and the Alawites held responsibility for the security services. The perception of the Syrian Baath establishment as a bastion of Alawite and to a lesser extent Christian power has not consistently sat well with the Syrian Sunni majority and it has been suggested that, in reality, they have been denied the opportunity to take a full part in Syrian political life. However, as I have noted, the People’s Council is predominantly Sunni and representative on a proportional level to the extent of almost matching the religious demographics of Syria:

These figures for Syrian MPs by religion were the only available as of 27 April 2016. Please contact ORIENTAL REVIEW if you are aware of another breakdown of these demographics.
These figures for Syrian MPs by religion were the only available as of 27 April 2016. Please contact ORIENTAL REVIEW if you are aware of another breakdown of these demographics.

Continue reading Popular representation and democracy in Syria, by Kristian Girling

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The Cuban People Will Overcome, by Fidel Castro

Source: counterpunch

It constitutes a superhuman effort to lead any people in times of crisis. Without them, the changes would be impossible. In a meeting such as this, which brings together more than a thousand representatives chosen by the revolutionary people themselves, who delegated their authority to them, for all it represents the greatest honor they have received in their lives, to which is added the privilege of being a revolutionary which is the product of our own consciousness

Why did I become a socialist, or more plainly, why did I become a communist? That word that expresses the most distorted and maligned concept in history by those who have the privilege of exploiting the poor, dispossessed ever since they were deprived of all the material wealth that work, talent and human energy provide. Since when does man live in this dilemma, throughout time without limit. I know you do not need this explanation but perhaps some listeners do.

I speak simply so it is better understood that I am not ignorant, extremist, or blind, nor did I acquire my ideology of my own accord studying economics.

I did not have a tutor when I was a law and political sciences student, subjects in which they have a great influence. Of course then I was around 20 years old and was fond of sports and mountain climbing. Without a tutor to help me in the study of Marxism-Leninism; I was no more than a theorist and, of course, had total confidence in the Soviet Union. Lenin’s work violated after 70 years of Revolution. What a history lesson! It can be affirmed that it should not take another 70 years before another event like the Russian Revolution occurs, in order that humanity have another example of a magnificent social revolution that marked a huge step in the struggle against colonialism and its inseparable companion, imperialism.

Perhaps, however, the greatest danger hanging over the earth today derives from the destructive power of modern weaponry which could undermine the peace of the planet and make human life on earth’s surface impossible.

The species would disappear like the dinosaurs disappeared, perhaps there will be time for new forms of intelligent life or maybe the sun’s heat will grow until it melts all the planets of the solar system and its satellites, as a large number of scientists recognize. If the theories of several of them are true, which we laypeople are not unaware of, the practical man must learn more and adapt to reality. If the species survives a much longer space of time the future generations will know much more than we do, but first they will have to solve a huge problem. How to feed the billions of human beings whose realities are inevitably at odds with the limited drinking water and natural resources they need?

Some or perhaps many of you are wondering where are the politics in this speech. Believe me I am sad to say it, but the politics are here in these moderate words. If only numerous human beings would concern ourselves with these realities and not continue as in the times of Adam and Eve eating forbidden apples. Who will feed the thirsty people of Africa with no technology at their disposal, no rain, no reservoirs, no more underground aquifers than those covered by sands? We will see what the governments, which almost all signed the climate commitments, say.

We must constantly hammer away at these issues and I do not want to elaborate beyond the essentials.

I shall soon turn 90, such an idea would never have occurred to me and it was never the result of an effort, it was sheer chance. I will soon be like everyone else. We all reach our turn, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, working with fervor and dignity, can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain these. To our brothers in Latin America and the world we must convey that the Cuban people will overcome.

This may be one of the last times that I speak in this room. I voted for all the candidates submitted for election by Congress and I appreciate the invitation and the honor of your listening to me. I congratulate you all, and firstly, compañero Raúl Castro for his magnificent effort.

We will set forth on the march forward and we will perfect what we should perfect, with the utmost loyalty and united force, just as Martí, Maceo and Gómez, in an unstoppable march.

Remarks by the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, during the closing of the 7th Party Congress

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